Saturday, 15 February 2014

Dining Out: Aubaine

For my second and last birthday meal out Matt took me to a French restaurant named Aubaine and we went to the branch in Wimbledon. Although there are a few locations, we liked that it doesn't feel like a chain restaurant, rather more boutique. We had been wanting to go there for a while so it was really nice surprise :) Inside it is modern with a rustic French twist and the service was very friendly and quick. 

When we first sat down I was surprised with a bottle of wine awaiting us with a little note from Matt, which is kind of a tradition as he normally does this when we go out to eat for a special occasion. It definitely set off the evening in a lovely way!

While choosing what to eat we were given a variety of tasty bread in a cute little bucket, as you can see above. There were lots of options to choose from, all quite simple, but for starter Matt had the caprese salad which was amazing. In his words, if the chefs can make something simple taste exquisite then you know you've gone to a good restaurant! I went for the squid which was flavoured with chilli and coriander and served with a lime aioli. It was a great combination of flavours and I also thought the way the lime was cut was pretty (I'm easily pleased as you can tell). It was good to have light starters so we had lots of room for main and pudding!

I opted for sea bass with tomato compote and roquette which was so good - I loved that they had got the skin nice and crispy. The quality of the ingredients as with all the dishes was great which is a necessity when providing more simple dishes. I also ordered some broccoli as a side to share (gotta get those vitamins in!) and it was cooked just right so it still had some crunch was nice and buttery. Matt went for the mussels with chips which is always a winner and one of our favourites.

Dessert was most definitely a highlight of the meal. We were presented with a slate platter that had a selection of delicious patisseries - I wish we could have had all of them! Matt had a salted caramel and pecan cake and I had a giant vanilla macaroon because they are one of my favourite things.

Overall we had such a lovely experience, with great quality food and service. We will most definitely be going back!

Have you tried Aubaine before? Do you like French food? xxx

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Inside The Beauty Bag Of... #1

Most of my posts consist of products geared towards my skin type, hair type and personal make up taste so I thought it would be a nice change once in a while to delve into other people's beauty bags in order to offer a different perspective. For the first installment of this new series I delved into the make up and skin care preferences of my best friend Sophie.

Skin type: Dry and sensitive. 

Skincare regime: Sophie has a really simple routine which consists of all Garnier products! She swears by Garnier's Soft Essentials cream cleanser and rose toner followed by the Moisture Match moisturiser for dry to very dry skin.

Everyday make up: Sophie starts with Rimmel's Fix and Perfect Primer (something I really want to try) followed by MaxFactor 3in1 Facefinity foundation which as it isn't too heavy. For under eyes she uses Benefit Boi-ing concealer which she got in a set for Christmas and has fallen in love with and luckily doesn't need anything to cover up blemishes as she rarely gets any. Her base make up is finished with a small dash of  L'Oreal Blush in 'Wild Rose' and Rimmel Clear Complexion powder. Moving onto eyes her favourite liquid eyeliner is by No 7 as it is hypoallergenic which is great for sensitive eyes, although she is trying out Barry M's Wink Black Marker at the moment. For below the lash line she prefers a pencil liner that won't run at the moment one from Rimmel that features a nifty twist feature. Finally a slick of Maxfactor's Masterpiece Max mascara (one of my favourites) finishes her look.

Overall favourite make up brand: Overall Maybelline as they provide a light base which is non cakey that is perfect for dry skin. She also loved Define A Lash mascara by the brand before it was discontinued because it was long lasting and had a rubber wand which is her favourite over a bristle applicator.

Favourite make up item of all time:  Maxfactor Masterpiece Max mascara.

Worst product: Rimmel foundations - they are too thick for Sophie's liking!

Favourite nail varnish: Pretty much anything from Barry M, in particular their dark red from the original line.

First make up item: mascara of some sort .... (she thinks!)

Favourite make up look: Vintage glamour.

Beauty muse: Millie Mackintosh for her simple, fresh make up.

Best beauty tip: use an older mascara for bottom lashes so it won't smudge or go gloopy.

Top of the lust list: YSL Touche Eclat to brighten up under eyes.

I hope you enjoyed the slight change in post. Let me know if you have any product suggestions suited to Sophie's needs xxx

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Review: Real Techniques | Expert Face Brush |

Real Techniques brushes are one of the most talked about budget brush brands and for good reason. I have the core collection and starter eye kit and both are of fantastic quality and contain multi-functional brushes. For a really long time I have wanted to add to my collection by purchasing some of the stand alone brushes so I was really pleased when I finally caved and picked up the Expert Face Brush.

I never thought I'd say this but I think it has replaced my beloved Buffing Brush as my favourite base applicator. The synthetic taklon bristles are densely packed and stiff, unlike the buffing brush which is quite flexible so I found it a bit difficult to get used to at the beginning. However, this design delivers a flawless base with minimal effort. Normally I take a long time buffing in my choice of base to make sure it is all blended in but this brush cuts that time in half and basically does all the work for you. I've also found I use a lot less product as the Expert Face Brush works it into the skin so flawlessly you don't need as much to even skin tone or cover redness. It works really well with all cream and liquid bases, from light to high coverage, but my favourite at the moment is with Estee Lauder Double Wear, which I mentioned in this post recently.

The light weight and tapered middle design of the handle is another plus point which makes it easy to maneuver and grip, again aiding application. The brush is also really easy to clean which was a surprise as the bristles are so dense I thought product would get easily trapped in between them.

The Expert Face Brush leaves you looking naturally airbrushed and it just a winner all round - a great value product which you won't regret having in your arsenal.

What is your favourite Real Techniques brush? xxx

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Get To Know Me | 25 Facts About Me |

Hey guys, the final post for this week is a TAG and will hopefully let you get to know me a little bit better. In the video I tell you 25 facts about me and it was actually really hard to think of 25 things! Let me know a fact about you in the comments :) 

Please like the video and subscribe to my channel if you enjoyed the video. Have a great weekend! xxx

Thursday, 6 February 2014

One For The Chocolate Lovers: Hotel Chocolat's Restaurant | Rabot 1745 |

As you can tell from my last post, I like chocolate a lot. Matt is also partial to the sweet stuff, so when we received a booking at Hotel Chocolat's restaurant, Rabot 1745, from his mum as a joint birthday present (his birthday is in December) it seemed like a perfect choice! Apologies for the following pictures, I was really excited to use my new camera...but I forgot to put the SD card in and had to use my iPhone instead!

Rabot 1745 is based in Borough, London and situated right next to the market. The basic concept of the restaurant is to present a 'cocoa-centric cuisine' where all dishes have an element of some form of the cocoa bean as a new spice. As soon as you walk in you are hit by a scent of chocolate, which isn't overpowering at all but warm and comforting. You first walk into the cafe which would be perfect in the day to pop in for a hot chocolate while perusing the markets. They have merchandise on offer too and even have the machine they use to grind the beans on display and tell you which beans are being ground at that time.

The small restaurant is situated upstairs and is a dimly lit and cosy affair influenced by their St Lucian estate, made complete with a well stocked bar. We chose two chocolate based cocktails to start although they have plenty of other cocktails and drinks to choose from - I had the chocolate soother and Matt and the hazlenut soother. Both were very alcoholic and we both preferred Matt's as mine had the consistency of a pudding it was so thick!

Picture of a Chocolate Soother and Hazelnut Soother Cocktail at Rabot 1945
L-R: Chocolate Soother & Hazelnut Soother
Each person each gets 3 cocoa beans before you order, along with some information about how the restaurant uses the beans and the history behind them. This meant we got the opportunity to be hands on with them and try a pure cocoa bean which was surprisingly sweet and a little nutty. It was a really nice touch and something that made you more involved with the experience.

Picture of 3 cocoa beans at the Hotel Chocolat restaurant
Unshelled cocoa beans at Rabot 1745

Before our starter arrived we got given a shot of butternut squash soup accompanied by bread with cacao nibs in which was a delicious indication of the quality of the food that would follow the rest of the night.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup Shots with Cacao Nib Bread

For starter I had the Pearl Barley Scotch Egg which was encrusted with cacao nibs and accompanied by a warm salad of  roasted root veg (although I wouldn't call it much of a salad), goat's cheese dressing and cacao oil emulsion. It was so tasty and the unusual combination of flavours were unlike anything else I've had before. I loved that the scotch eggs were warm and runny inside too. Matt had the Seared Plantation Pork Terrine which came with gribiche sauce, crisp sweetbread and cacao nib condiment and was equally as yummy.

Cacao Nib encrusted pearl barley scotch egg

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb was my choice for the main course which was basted with cacao balsamic, roast garlic mash and studded with seasonal veg. It was so tender it literally fell of the bone and melted in  your mouth and the rich sticky sauce and creamy mash worked really well together. I also liked that it was a big enough dish that meant we didn't have to order more sides so value for money was quite good. Matt had the  35 day aged cacao marinated rib eye steak that came with roast winter vegetables, white chocolate horseradish mash and a red wine cacao jus (which I also got). I don't think he could detect the white chocolate in the mash and he preferred the steak without too much of the jus. 

Lastly, we picked Chocolate Genesis for dessert, which is every bit as decadent as it sounds (how could we not?!) In hindsight we should have probably just shared one as we were pretty full by this point and nearly at the point of total chocolate consumption. It includes lots of bite size pieces which signify the story of the bean - from roasted beans and drinking chocolate to truffles, pralines and pure bars of the stuff. It also included a small shot of coconut water to cleanse your palette but even this addition didn't let me finish the whole thing. We ended up getting a doggy bag of what we couldn't finish. A happy birthday was written on both our plates too which was a lovely touch.

I'm so pleased that the inclusion of chocolate in every dish didn't turn out to be a gimick as it could have easily slipped into that territory. If anything it added a subtle rich flavour to the dishes and worked really well with the other ingredients - whoever planned the menu did a fantastic job! It is pretty pricey (around £20 for a main) but for a completely different dining experience for top quality food and service, I think it is well worth the money. The only negative is that the emphasis is mainly on dark chocolate and combined with the dark chocolate drinks, cacao nibs and pudding we really were chocolated out as it was so rich! We also received some dark chocolate buttons with the bill and some chocolate goodie bags to take home as it was our birthday celebration.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are a chocolate lover or just fancy something different to try, and the laid back vibe of the establishment and quality of the food makes for a perfect pairing.

Would you try a dining experience like this? Do you like Hotel Chocolat? xxx

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Recipe: Caramel Oreo Popcorn

For his birthday Matt got an old-style popcorn making machine which is not only amazingly cool but is also really easy to use. The first opportunity to christen it came when one of my best friends from Uni came to stay for the weekend and on the first night we decided to have a proper film night complete with the Princess Diaries, candles, wine and freshly popped, calorie laden popcorn.

Pinterest is an amazing source of delicious dreamy recipes (you can follow me by clicking the button on the right) and after pinning a few things for inspiration I came up with a ridiculously decadent but super tasty recipe. It's not necessary to own a popping machine as you can do it in a pan or buy plain ready made popcorn which you can add the toppings to. This is also a very flexible recipe so feel free to add more or less of the ingredients according to your taste.

What you'll need:
* A large bowl of popped plain popcorn
* 10 Oreos
* 100g white chocolate chips
* 3 tablespoons dulche de leche/ carnation caramel

* Crush the Oreos with a rolling pin or by placing them under a chopping board and applying pressure to it. Make sure they are still in the wrappers before doing this otherwise you will have Oreos everywhere! 
* Empty the chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl and heat on a low heat for 30 seconds at a time until melted and smooth. You can do this over a ban marie if you so wish but it's not necessary.
* Drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn and toss until covered.
* Do the same with the caramel (it gives the Oreos something to stick to).
* Finally pour in the Oreos and toss again to make sure the the mixture is evenly distrupted throughout the popcorn.

And that's it! If you can, leave to cool for around half an hour to allow it to set but you can eat it straight away if you don't mind messy fingers. 

If you try this recipe let me know by tweeting me at @LilMisLifestyle :) xxx

Monday, 3 February 2014

5 Top Tips to Survive The Winter + A Giveaway

With England's weather being ridiculously cold and wet over the last few weeks and no sign of getting better, I thought it would be nice to do a little post on how to survive it by sharing a few lifestyle and beauty tips.

1. Hydrate: from the outside and the inside. I'm pretty crap at drinking lots of water myself but since buying a really large cup its made it a lot easier to keep hydrated. Try it with lemon for an added immune boost - I like a hot mug of water and a slice of lemon in the mornings as well as herbal teas throughout the day and evening, which keep you warm, hydrated and they are good for you!

In terms of the outside, cold temperatures as well as central heating can really dry out skin and hair. I've previously done a post on my dehydrated skin saviours but a few of my favourites include: Origins Drink Up Intensive mask, Nuxe lip balm, Clarins facial oil, The Body Shop hemp hand cream and a rich body cream like The Righteous Butter from Soap and Glory. Your hair will also thank you for oils - my fave is this offering from Kerastase - and luxurious masks like the Macadamia oil one.

2. Vitamins: It's really tempting to make stodgy food the main part of your diet at this time of year, but try and get lots of fruits and veggies by making homemade soups (recipes to come), stews and smoothies/juices. That way you can help to stave off illnesses and not feel guilty when you do have some treats! You can also top up your defences with supplements such as Immunaid* by Bimuno which features Vitamin C and stimulates the good bacteria in your gut to maintain your immune health. Echinacea is also great for preventing a sniffle into a full blown cold.

3.  Exfoliate: In the winter skin can tend to get dull and lackluster but there is still the temptation to ignore it as what can't be seen is easily forgotten. Get out that rut and use a body brush before showering to stimulate blood flow, an effective body scrub to get rid of dead skin cells and toners rich in AHA acids to gently exfoliate dead skin cells to get that glow back (remember to use an SPF after use to prevent sun damage).

4. Pamper: Beat the blues with a pamper night. What better excuse for a lush-centric bath, beautiful candles and a film or reading session wrapped under blankets.

5. Last but not least, remember to smile! It releases seratonin, a neuro transmitter that boosts your mood and your immune system.

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